Sunday, October 9, 2011

#Occupy Wall Street....

"The basic movement that says to each person: You are, I am a worthwhile person. I am one of the 99% that are the backbone of and reason America got this far. Why do I have to, beg for a job, beg that I can be seen for a medical condition, beg a politician for some little relief from the inexorable tightening of the screws that go on day after day, year after year, and never lets up? Why do the 1% have to keep grabbing more and more and stealing from the rest of us? Why must this theft continue? Why do I have to have my dignity, self worth violated over and over?" - BeeDeeS

Everyday I read more and more reports that point to the leaderless character of the #OWS movement and it's lack of a clear concise agenda as the primary strengths of the incipient movement. And the argument is not without merit - don't allow any organization to lay claim to leadership because, the second you do, you immediately limit the scope and appeal of the movement.

But there will come a moment when that will have to change, when this movement will have to move pass the simple expression of built up frustration and outrage over the past 3 decades of economic inequities and proceed toward some actual specific action.

It will not be a "revolution." Not in the same sense as those that spread across the Arab Spring. Barack Obama and John Boehner will not flee the Capitol and be discovered by an angry mob hiding in the break room of a Walmart.

I see posts on Facebook by people who, when I tell them they need to vote to stop a return of a Republican White House, tell me I'm wrong and that instead we have to "tear the whole thing down."

So.... This means what? That we shut down every public assistance office, every library, every public school? That we shut down all public utilities, all public transportation, all government services, all government agencies?

The fire hydrants in my neighborhood have been broken for a while; the sewage system in Indianapolis is about 100 years old and in need of some serious repair. Three times in the past week I've woken up, turned the faucet, and nothing has come out.

This is what we need to do, rather than re-elect Barack Obama?

No water, no electricity, no heat, no traffic lights, no police, no fire, no emergency services? Do these people really think a world in which a call to 911 is answered by a recording that says "The number you have dialed is no longer in service" is better?

No banks, no money, no prescription medicine, no salt trucks and road plows after a snow storm. Power to the people. Right on.

At the same time, the #OWS movement fills me with real hope.

I read recently someone who argued that the New Deal ended on May 8, 1970 in lower Manhattan, the day of the "Hard Hat Riots."

The riot started about noon when about 200 construction workers mobilized by the New York State AFL-CIO attacked about 1,000 high school and college students and others protesting the Kent State shootings, the American invasion of Cambodia and the Vietnam War near the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street.

A left political movement that is on the other side of the working class is a non sequitur and has zero potential for growth or success.

But fast forward forty-one years to October 5, 2011 and the statement issued by Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President:

"Occupy Wall Street has captured the imagination and passion of millions of Americans who have lost hope that our nation's policymakers are speaking for them. We support the protesters in their determination to hold Wall Street accountable and create good jobs. We are proud that today on Wall Street, bus drivers, painters, nurses and utility workers are joining students and homeowners, the unemployed and the underemployed to call for fundamental change. Across America, working people are turning out with their friends and neighbors in parks, congregations and union halls to express their frustration – and anger -- about our country's staggering wealth gap, the lack of work for people who want to work and the corrupting of our politics by business and financial elites. The people who do the work to keep our great country running are being robbed not only of income, but of a voice. It is time for all of us—the 99 percent—to be heard.

We will open our union halls and community centers as well as our arms and our hearts to those with the courage to stand up and demand a better America."

Is that the spark that ignites the return of the New Deal? I'd sure like to think so, but, at the same time, I see a whole lot of Ron Paul supporters involved in these protests. Perhaps this represents a teaching opportunity. Perhaps a Ron Paul supporter marching on Wall Street presents a case study in a critical pedagogy of economics that challenge the assumptions of libertarian economics.

I will hope for as long as I can possibly hope.


Greg said...

right on

Ross Wolfe said...

One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

“Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”